All I can remember is how the inside of her purse smelled; that forbidden zone of tobacco, wrigley’s spearmint gum-the green pack, pennies and leather. And I remember how she twirled her hair in knots in a succession of loose knots down a thick strand of her silky straight dark brown hair that matched her dark brown eyes. Her cheek smelled like Merit cigarettes, White Linen perfume and Keri’s lotion.
I remember the horrible fights and all the terrible things I said to her and all the terrible things she said to me. I remember being punished for sleeping with one of my high school boyfriends in my bed and she caught me. I remember the shame and anger I almost continually felt towards her all through my teenage years. I remember longing for her to be my friend, to be my protector and not my warden and irrational judge. I wished she would have chosen my happiness over her own and that I was as important to her as her boyfriend/husband/whatever.
I remember feeling ashamed while she got high in the car right in front of my grandmother’s house before we had dinner. I remember the tense dinners and admonishing tones my grandparent’s used when complaining about how she should get her life together. I remember feeling embarrassed for her, for me -for all those times.
I remember missing her but being glad to be away-living a new life with my boyfriend and being madly in love. I remember how proud I was that she loved Donald as much as I did. I was so proud when she hugged and kissed him hello and goodbye like he was part of our family. I loved talking to her on the phone and felt guilty to be so far away.
I remember the look we shared, that I have a picture of, the day before our wedding when we truly saw each with the deep love we felt, despite all the crazy fights, arguments, petty bullshit that happens when you love someone and they love you.
I can’t remember how her arms felt around me or how it felt to hold her hand and dance around the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time she told me she loved me. I can’t remember really the sound of her voice. I can’t remember how it felt when she kissed my cheek. I can’t remember how it sounded when she told me she loved me but I can remember how it felt.
I felt safe, I felt loved no matter what and best of everyone. I was never a mistake, she was always glad, usually proud and always interested.
My mother dying when I was 27 was a year after I was married, 3 years before I would have our first child, two years before I would buy her house and move back to my home town. 11 years before I would graduate from nursing school. 6 years before I would give birth to our daughter. 19 years before my 20th anniversary.
Too many hours, days, weeks, months and years before all the good stuff started. Where we got to know each other as grown women. She would never see me as a mother. I would never be able to ask her if my kids were anything like me. Like it was to raise me. If it was the same for her as a mother-to feel this all-encompassing love that fills you and crushes you at the same time. If she felt afraid all the time that something might happen and that life without children would be so unbearable. If she worried if she wasn’t enough. If I showed her that I loved her and if she felt it.
Having children without your mother is like driving your car blindfolded to the store. You know the route, it feels like you don’t even need to try really because somethings just are a sense memory and you don’t need to see but it is terrifying-not because you are driving the car blindfolded but because of all the other jackwagons on the road that you can’t control or even see.
A motherless mother is throwing darts in the dark and there is no one to tell you if you hit the bullseye or not, or even if you are close.